John F. Kennedy’s Enduring Legacy

“For I can assure you that we love our country, not for what it was, though it has always been great – not for what it is, though of this we are deeply proud – but for what it someday can, and, through the efforts of us all, someday will be.”

President John F. Kennedy

Address at a Luncheon Meeting of the National Industrial Conference Board

February 13, 1961

On Friday, Nov. 22, we mark the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

These milestone anniversaries generate conversations and investigations into Kennedy’s tragic death. While the assassination is perhaps the ultimate whodunit mystery, perhaps our time is better served remembering a president whose death marked the end of an age of innocence for a generation of baby boomers. After all, Kennedy wasn’t our nation’s first assassinated president.

The greater tragedy of Kennedy’s death is the era of idealism that was snuffed to a close. Kennedy was the president who moved his generation to reach for heights the nation hadn’t yet reached – putting a man on the moon, a war on poverty and creation of the Peace Corps. For all his flaws, Kennedy draws admiration for his ability to learn on the job – whether it was growth from his handling of the Bay of Pigs to the handling of the Cuban missile crisis or his change in action during the civil rights movement.

We face many of the same problems today as we did 50 years ago. Unemployment is high. Politicians in the 1960s were just as concerned with the national debt and deficit spending as we are now. Issues relating to immigration, health care and the threat of violence hung in the air just as heavily during Kennedy’s time as they do now. While political disagreements are much more public now than they were 50 years ago, don’t think for a minute partisan politics weren’t as tough then as they are now.

Only a man who believed the future was bright could utter the words we have included at the top of today’s editorial. The ideals Kennedy espoused are as relevant in 2013 as they were in 1963. They are ideals for which we should still reach today.

That, more than his private failings and the assassination, is John F. Kennedy’s enduring legacy.